By Tony Cola
Sioux Falls, SD--A sluggish first period proved to be too much for the Sioux Falls Stampede to overcome Friday night as they fell to the Tri-City Storm 5-2 in front of 3,510 fans at the Sioux Falls Arena. The Storm (6-9-1) led the entire way during their first victory over the Herd (10-5-0), who had beaten Tri-City twice in two previous attempts. Dennis Kravchenko and Sean Murphy scored for Sioux Falls, while goaltender Jan Obernesser allowed four goals on 31 shots. Friday was the first time all season the Stampede failed to score at least four goals on their home ice, a place where they were 8-1-0 entering the night.
Tri-City dominated Sioux Falls in the first period, swiping the lead with a quick strike from Michael Vecchione only 40 seconds into the contest. The early goal placed Tri-City on top 1-0, a lead that would double to 2-0 with 2:40 left courtesy of Storm captain Brian Ward. Tri-City had twice as many shots on goal as the Herd with a 12-6 advantage, and neither club went to the penalty box in the period.
“We weren’t mentally prepared and that affected us throughout the game,” said Kravchenko. “It cost us.”
The Stampede responded quickly in the second period by taking a page out of Tri-City’s book and scoring a mere 16 seconds in. Herd leading-scorer Dennis Kravchenko tallied his ninth goal of the season when he glided a wrist shot from the right circle through Tri-City netminder Johan Mattsson to make it a 2-1 game.
“The guys wanted to pick it up a little and start playing the game better,” said Kravchenko, “but we needed more energy and we didn’t get that today.”
The first penalty of the game was called in the Herd’s favor at 9:04 for hooking, awarding the Stampede another chance to continue their momentum. However, Tri-City killed the penalty with little trouble and regained control of the contest with 1:02 to go when Storm winger Garrett Gamez one-timed a shot at the last second past Obernesser, giving his team a 3-1 advantage and putting the Herd in another two goal deficit before the intermission.
Sean Murphy provided Stampede fans a glimpse of hope for comeback when he nailed a wrist shot in between the circles at 11:53, but Ward sealed the deal with his second goal of the night at 14:51, tilting the score back to 4-2 and clinching the game for the team from Kearney, Neb. An empty-netter with 1:16 left brought the final score to 5-2. The Stampede finished the contest 0 for 2 on the man advantage Friday with Tri-City going 1 for 2.
“We were supposed to be better than Tri-City and we played down to them,” said Kravchenko. “Tomorrow it’s going to be a different game.”
The Stampede return to the Arena Saturday night to face the league-leading Dubuque Fighting Saints at 7:05 PM. The first 1,000 fans through the doors will receive a commemorative Stampede medallion. Doors open at 6:15 PM and tickets are available through the Sioux Falls Arena Box Office.